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WikiLeaks Revelation: the More Italy Changes... You Can Guess the Rest

WikiLeaks Revelation: the More Italy Changes... You Can Guess the Rest

Jerry Krase (December 6, 2010)
Jerry Krase
I didn't have a picture handy of Silvio Berlusconi with his allegedly very close friend Vladimir Putin, so I thought one taken in Vlad's "Lennongrad" hometown (Leningrad/St. Petersburg) while I was there for a conference might be equally informative and ultimately damaging.

I am beginning to get tired of hearing about the incompetence of the American Diplomatic Corps and US Intelligence Agencies as it seems to me that I have already heard (and written) enough unflattering comments about them, as well as of Silvio Berlusconi, so I ask "What's the real meaning of all this WikiLeaks blather?" Perhaps it is an attempt by the BIG media to keep us from noticing that the world, about which they are supposed to be reporting, seems to be coming to an end. But then again, we heard that before beginning with "The Book of Revelation."


Last Sunday I went mass and was treated to one of my favorite authorized sources:  The Book of Revelation of John, better know as Revelation or even better -- Apocalypse (which is Greek (apokalupsis) for revelation). Another indication of the End of Times, was a not-so-revealing article in The New York Times by Rachel Donadio and Celestine Bohlen "Caustic U.S. Views of Berlusconi Churn Italy's Politics."

It seems that
although Silvio wants Italy to be “the best friend of the United States,” WikiLeaks shared US diplomatic reservations that he was so “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader(incosciente, inutile ed inefficace come capo europeo moderno) that it could affect parliamentary (no or yes) confidence votes. Anti-Silvio forces are using the unsurprising comments to demand he resign before the end of his term of office. Bohlen added that while "the revelations are unlikely to damage the close relations between Italy and the United States, they nevertheless could have a profound impact on his image and reputationlong the core of his political strength in domestic politics."  (If it is true that Berlusconi's image and reputation is the core of his strength, then it is Italy and not Berlusconi that has the problem). Another apocalypse was Bohlen's view that Italy is  "a country with a wide divergence between what people say in public and in private and where saving face is a national art." (As opposed to what other country, he asked jokingly?)  As might be expected, Hillary Clinton reassured Berlusconi that Italy was still our “best friend” (amico migliore) even though her diplomats see him as a canny survivor and sometimes erratic partner as well as wobbly on critical issues.

     At the American Embassy in Rome, Elizabeth Dibble revealed U.S.-Silvio relations are “complex”; he  does things that prior Italian governments wouldn't do, and yet is determined to be "best friends" (un altro amico migliore) with Russia, having criticized "the American missile defense project" and other “provocations of Russia.” His defense of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 seems to be connected to joint energy projects by Russia's Gazprom and Italy's ENI. America worries about Silvio's ties with Valdimir V. Putin, so much so that Hillary's office asked U.S. Embassies in Rome and Moscow,  “What personal investments, if any, do they have that might drive their foreign and economic policies?” implying that his relationship with Vlad was too close. In this regard, Der Spiegel is more revealing and worth a read in either English or Deutsch. Washington Concerned about Berlusconi-Putin Axis (Macho-Freunde beunruhigen Washington, Washington si e preoccupato per gli amici macho) in which Gregor Peter Smitz writes about "Berlusconi's strange fascination for Putin." (Berlusconis seltsame Faszination für Putin, Fascino sconosciuto di Berlusconi per Putin).

     As to sanctions against Iran, US diplomats reported “The Italians want to have it both ways" "to be seen as playing a leadership role in the international effort to ratchet up sanctions on Iran, while also wanting to leave the door open to future business deals for Italian companies.” Diplomats see Berlusconi as tired and weakened and in one meeting with the ambassador, he fell asleep.  (In his defense I would suggest that at least he didn't throw up on anyone). I happen to agree with Italian commentators who see the WikiLeaks more as a reflection on U.S. incompetence than Italian perfidy because if the foregoing highlighted revelations are the only bad news about Berlusconi that American diplomats could find and share with us, courtesy of Julian Assange, then they are really in trouble because it all could have been found in the Itlaian newspapers. As a final note, evidently no one seemed concerned about Silvio's admiration of Obama's "tan." (branzato) .

     As to America's other "best friends", the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce had a “friendship” gala for its 123rd anniversary. The Chamber is the oldest in the U.S.This year’s Business and Cultural Award was given to RAI Corporation with Director Massimo Magliaro accepting it on RAI’s behalf. In his acceptance speech he offered “We want to offer television programming in both Italian and English that reflects your interests as well as the larger American society that maintains the intelligence, creativity, tenacity, and genius of the Italian people in its own DNA. We want to create a showcase of Italian excellence.” Obviously, he is anticipating the end of Berlusconi's all too great influence over RAI. 

     The WikiLeaks episode reminds me of the last controversy here at I-Italy over the reputation of La Bella Italia. In the special section Italy Under Scrutiny where Italian, American, and Italian American commentators discussed Italy's "funk" in the aftermath of Ian Fischer's in/famous reflection. In my "Lost in Translation" essay I wrote:

So when, last Thursday (December 13, 2007), I perused Ian Fisher’s “In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment” in The New York Times I was more than a bit amused. His opening paragraph set the tone for the next two-thousand-five-hundred words: “All the world loves Italy because it is old but still glamorous. Because it eats and drinks well but is rarely fat or drunk,” (devoutly to be wished?)… “But these days, for all the outside adoration and all of its innate strengths, Italy seems not to love itself.” The funk was “--summed up in a recent poll: Italians, despite their claim to have mastered the art of living, say they are the least happy people in Western Europe.” Even Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, was quoted as saying something Jimmy Carter might have said better --“There is more fear than hope.” Because not understanding Italian, Italians, and Italy is not unusual in even the most exulted of American journals, I thought nothing more of it. After all, to be Italian is to be as was my Sicilian-American mother, pessimistic.

As to my current take on the WikiLeaks controversy,  I must say that it is unfortunate that the allegedly responsible mass media has not been doing its job (especially investigative journalism) to the sorry extent that those who accidentally discover information that they feel should be shared with the general public have sought, and found, irresponsible outlets. For example, we now seem to know more about Julian Assange's broken condom (preservativo rotto) then we do about governments' broken promises. I am sure we will hear from Pope Benedict XVI about this soon.




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